Chamber happenings: Free business development programs offered

The chamber is partnering with the Connecticut Small Business Development Center to deliver two educational programs this month that provide support for individuals to launch a business idea or to learn new skills and strategies. The SBDC is an accredited member of America’s Small Business Development Center Network – the most comprehensive small business assistance program in the United States with a proven track record of providing more than 40 years of service.

One program is tailored for aspiring minority entrepreneurs who are interested in starting their own business, and the other is for minority-owned businesses who are looking to grow their business to the next level.

While the pandemic had an obvious impact on new business start-ups, there has been an upswing in the number of new business registrations. From January 2019 to November 2021, 15% of new businesses identified as woman-owned and 13% were minority-owned – both steady increases over the past few years, according to Many of the new businesses under these categories are in the transportation and warehousing sector, as well as retail, professional and technical services, and real estate.

Have you been dreaming of starting your own business? Now is the time.

The Minority Startup Program, which runs Wednesdays on Zoom from 5:30 to 7 p.m., will help educate individuals on the basics on how to turn a concept, idea or passion into a bona fide business. The program will be held over four class sessions, beginning May 18 and running until June 8.

“The state is seeing a lot of people who want to start their own business. The Minority Startup Program will help people walk through their concept and figure out how they can make a business from it,” said Joe Ercolano, state director of Connecticut SBDC.

To incentivize participants to attend all four classes, the chamber will cover $100 in tuition costs for the program, reimbursement of Certificate of Organization with the secretary of the state up to $120, and additional start-up fees up to $200. Funding comes in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the state Department of Economic and Community Development, the University of Connecticut and CARES Act funding.

The Minority Business Growth Program is a more intensive, eight-session virtual class geared toward existing minority-owned businesses. The program will provide technical knowledge, facilitate discussion with other business owners, and touch on several key topics, such as marketing, operations and financing for growth.

“This program is focused on growth,” Ercolano said. “Established minority-owned businesses will learn how to build capacity while finding new business, new clients, and new opportunities, all while understanding finances better.”

This program runs every Tuesday and Wednesday from 6 to 9 p.m., beginning May 24 and running until June 15. The program has a $1,500 value and is free to register.

If you are interested in learning more about the Minority Startup Program, visit To register for the Minority Business Growth Program, visit CTSBDC_MBGP. Feel free to reach out to the chamber at 203-757-0701 if you have any questions or need registration guidance.

Lynn Ward is president and CEO of the Waterbury Regional Chamber. Contact her at 203-757-0701 ext. 310 or